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Comics A.M. | Sci-fi scholar George Slusser passes away

George Slusser

George Slusser

Passings | Dr. George Slusser, co-founder of the University of California, Riversides’ renowned Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy, passed away Tuesday at age 75. Curator emeritus and professor emeritus of comparative literature, Slusser expanded the Eaton holdings from 7,500 items to more than 300,000, making it the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction and fantasy literature in the world. It encompasses novels, journals, manuscripts, comics and manga, fanzines and anime, and includes first editions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Action Comics #1 and The Fantastic Four #1. “Over three decades, George Slusser built the Eaton Collection up from a small core of titles into the world-class archive that it is today,” Rob Latham, co-director of UC Riverside’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program, said in a statement. “The field of science fiction scholarship owes him an incalculable debt.” [UC Riverside]

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Humor, mystery and cruel birds: Three books from Hic & Hoc

The Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor

The Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor

Continuing my ever-ongoing look at new comics from relatively new publishers, here are three books I recently received from the New Jersey-based Hic & Hoc:

The Hic & Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor, edited by Lauren Barnett & Nathan Bulmer ($10): It’s about time we had a decent humor-themed anthology; we’re long overdue. While none of the contributions contained in this 64-page comic reaches the level of divinely inspired hilarity, there are nevertheless some pretty great contributions from folks like Noah Van Sciver, Bort, Sam Henderson, Grant Snider, Dustin Harbin and Julia Wertz. My favorite is probably a sex comic by Sam Spina in which the participants say the most bizarrely un-sexy things (“I have to tell the rainforest a secret,” “Mash my bean bags”). The stories run from the outrageous to the gentle and observant but it all flows together nicely. Good job everyone. I look forward to the second volume.

Me Likes You Very Much by Lauren Barnett ($14): Here’s a case of a cartoonist finding a unique niche and working the hell out of it. Just about every gag in this 192-page book involves fruit, vegetables and birds being absolutely horrid to each other. (Baby bird: “My tummy hurts.” Mom bird: “That’s because you’re filled with lies.”) Her art style is deliberately crude — (her occasional realistic renderings of animals suggest she does have some genuine artistic talent — which adds to the general absurdity of the gags. For the most part, this stuff is pretty funny, or at least funny enough to make you forgive the occasional weak punchline or just plain odd non sequitur. But while it goes down pretty quickly, I suspect these types of comics work best in small doses, i.e. a minicomic or thrice-weekly webcomic. I’m not sure this chunky book format offers the best sort of presentation for her work. That’s not to say it’s not worth reading. There’s enough funny stuff here that will provide some good chuckles and the occasional guffaw. Perhaps it’s just that I’d like to see her extend her reach a bit beyond the static one-panel gag format the next time she publishes something of this size.

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A few words about every story in ‘Alternative Comics’ #4

alternativeAlternative Comics, the publisher of alternative comics, is back in business, with two big releases of note this month: Failure, a collection of Karl Stevens’ remarkably illustrated comic strips from the Boston Phoenix, and Alternative Comics #4, the latest installment of its showcase anthology (the first three issues were released as Free Comic Book Day giveaways, with the third issue shipping way back in 2005).

The new iteration isn’t free (in fact, it’s a $5.99, 48-page book), and it’s not coming out on Free Comic Book Day, but it is bigger, newer and perhaps even improved. To find that out, we’ll have to take a closer look at this book, edited by Marc Arsenault and featuring a lovely cover by Mike Bertino.

Here then, are a few words about every single story in Alternative Comics #4:

“Talent Goes In” by Sam Alden 
This is a four-panel, inside-front-cover strip by Alden, which amounts to little more than a picture poem. It’s not terribly profound or even substantial but that’s okay, it’s only the inside front cover. Alden has a better strip later in the book.

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